Boarding the 16 hour Qantas A380 flight from Dallas to Sydney was not completely anywhere near as smooth as the outbound journey from Melbourne to Los Angeles on the 787 Dreamliner. With Qantas outsourcing to US based ground operators, the attention to detail to look after premium customers just wasn’t there.
Boarding was called from the lounge, but after the short walk from gate D21 to D15 the flight wasn’t yet boarding. The ground staff called those needing boarding assistance first, which is pretty standard but this went on for around 10 minutes before calling guests in First Class, Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers. Generally speaking those top tier guests are able to board at the same time as families and those requiring assistance. As I regularly travel with my wife and 2 kids I appreciate that they give families that bit of extra time to get settle with fewer people onboard, however this process just lacked a bit of polish compared to how seamless boarding was in Australia. Given this was my first flight in First Class and something I was looking forward to for a long time, it didn’t live up to the expectations of feeling like you were whisked on to the flight as one of the most valued guests onboard.
The service took a positive turn once stepping onboard to the warm and welcoming Qantas crew. After being personally shown to the seat, Jenny introduced herself as the flight attendant to be looking after this side of the First Class cabin and immediately came across as extremely professional. The crew manager also came through for a personal hello and this excellent service followed throughout the flight. Every need was anticipated and swiftly taken care of, from the perfect time to make the bed to exactly when I wanted to order. Service was consistent and discreet, slightly less personal than you get in business class but very much a high-end experience.
The mini-suites onboard the Qantas A380 are laid out in a 1-1-1 configuration on the lower level behind the cock-pit. The A seats have their own aisle access, with F and K seats sharing an aisle. I had chosen 2A, at the time of reservation [only a few weeks prior] it would appear I was the only paid guest as I had the whole seat map to choose from. However, on the day of travel the whole cabin was full with discretionary and frequent flyer upgrades bumping up the higher tier frequent flyer members. This is a common theme for Qantas, frequent flyer points are a liability to them and to access the revenue apportioned to them they fill up every premium cabin which makes perfect commercial sense yet it does result in a slightly less exclusive feel.
2A and 3A are the pick of the seats for solo travellers, with 1A getting too much interruption from the galley where 2 toilets are available. The F and K seats are better for couples sitting across the aisle from each other, but the middle F seats are to be avoided if possible being more exposed. However, you really can’t go too far wrong in First Class. The seat itself starts in a forward facing position for take off and landing but quickly swivels around to meet the ottoman which is large enough to double as a seat for dining with a companion. Seat adjustments are made via the touch screen panel which takes care of everything including lighting, massage features (the best in-seat massage I’ve ever had), entertainment controls and the automated window shades. Raising and closing the window shades from the touch of the button is an extremely cool feeling.
There is plenty of storage with two nifty compartments, a bag or shoe well, the magazine holder and the area under the ottoman.
Before departure, Jenny brought the starter of arancini balls and tart accompanied by an irresistibly smooth Duval champagne which was topped up again along with a warm towel to freshen up before we were in the sky.
After take-off, the meal order and another round of drinks was arranged. The meal was served much quicker than in business class, perhaps within around 30 minutes which is the perfect amount of time when you’re boarding a late-night flight.
I opted for an entrée of Tandoori prawns, followed by the main of Cornish hen. Both were delicious and accompanied by the traditional sourdough bread and Rockpool green leaf salad. Portion sizes were noticeably larger than in business class, you really felt full after these meals whereas in business class I feel like you need to have eaten a bit extra in the lounge first or perhaps need to opt for a mid-flight snack. Interestingly, no mid-flight meals were listed in the menu but I have no doubt something would have been arranged if I had felt peckish.
After the meal and settling in to a movie, Jenny offered to make up the bed whilst I changed into the Martin Grant pyjamas. These are a more discreet and premium offering to the business class variety, with no flying kangaroo present. The amenity kit, which was at my seat on arrival, had everything you could need including Aspar toiletries, toothbrush, ear plugs, socks, Martin Grant-branded slippers and Rexona deodorant. The eye-mask included was fantastic, a sculpted design that fit perfectly and blocked out any residual light from those staying awake a bit longer. Gillette shaving foam and razors were available in the toilets.
The 2m+ long fully flat bed is very wide at 22 inches, and once the mattress and linens are added make up a proper bed for sleeping. This is perhaps the largest differentiator in First Class, even on the excellent 787 Dreamliner or Qatar Airways’ exceptional A350 product, you’re very aware you’re in a business class seat that’s been reclined to the point of being fully flat. In Qantas First, it truly feels like a bed, with a level of comfort never experienced before in business class regardless of carrier with linens that were extremely soft. 2 pillows were included, one large and fluffy and another small and supporting, perhaps latex with a sort of memory foam feel. All in all this made for a great rest on the flight, despite the odd bumps 8-10 hours of sleep were easily achieved.
Onboard the first class passengers have exclusive access to the first class bathrooms which by far exceed any other cabin class.
After waking up around 2 hours prior to landing, Jenny noticed I had switched my TV on and was swiftly around to take my breakfast order of bircher muesli and scrambled eggs with bacon and spinach. To drink, a refreshing mango energiser and a great Vittoria flat white. Both dishes were offered to be served separately but I opted to have them together. After a great breakfast, a warm towel, friendly goodbyes from the flight crew and a safe landing in Sydney.
Qantas First Class was truly a delightful experience, definitely worth considering if cost is no object, when on sale or if using frequent flyer points to upgrade from the aging A380 business class product.
To book Qantas first class airfares, contact our QFlyer Airfare Consultants.